A PERVERT who spent almost ten years downloading and viewing child sex abuse images has avoided being sent to prison.

David Stonehouse made a full and frank confession when police turned up at his home address and told them where to find his collection of illicit images.

The 48-year-old former research chemist was discovered to have more than 1,600 images stored on his laptop and confessed to deleting even more of the disturbing images.

Teesside Crown Court heard how Stonehouse admitted possession of 157 Category A images – the highest category; 277 category B images and 1,166 category C images.

Jane Foley, prosecuting, told Teesside Crown Court how Stonehouse had told the police officers that they would locate the images stored on his Acer laptop when they raided his home on Percy Street, Hartlepool, on august 6 last year.

She said: "Following his arrest he said he had been downloading pictures for ten years and had an interest in ten-12 year old girls.

"He said he would regularly search for images which he got sexual gratification from."

Rod Hunt, in mitigation, told the judge that his client had taken full advantage of support to help him tackle his addiction since he was arrested.

"It is unusual for someone to comply so readily with the police," he added. "He told them exactly where to find what they were looking for.

"Reading between the lines, it gave him a sense of relief that it was found out and brought out into the open.

"He was now free from this addiction."

Judge Howard Crowson sentenced Stonehouse to an 18-month community order with 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

He was also made subject of a five-year sexual harm prevention order and issued with a five-year notification requirement.

"For the last ten years, by your own confession, you were committing a crime which you admitted to as soon as challenged," the judge said.

"You fully admitted the offences and you faced charges, which span quite a length of time, not because they detected images that allowed them to prove as much as you were prepared to admit, but because you unburdened yourself by telling them the truth about your use, including the erasure of images you had seen."